Internet Addiction Counseling


Internet and online addictions encompass a wide spectrum of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. These behaviors range from compulsive shopping addictions and gambling addiction to Internet porn and sex addictions as well as compulsive emotional affairs. Each of these compulsive behaviors have their own unique signatures. Acting out these behaviors in the arena of the Internet is distinctly different from their "real life" corollaries. The ease and accessibility is far greater can their "real world" counterparts. Compulsive Internet acting out is also easier to mask and keep secret from family, friends and professional associates.

In the case of Internet porn addiction, cyber-sex and Internet emotional affairs, the lack of physical proximity and anonymity can leave the user with a greater sense of control and creates a sense of being able to create an online persona. We can give ourselves permission to create a whole "alter-ego" that falsely enhances our self concept and sense of self-worth. The fantasy reality that we can create for ourselves can give us the illusion to intimacy, attention, power and validation without any of the reality of personal or inter-personal responsibility and obligation.

As with all addictions, simplistic condemnation of the behavior is not a functional response. As I teach my clients and from my own experience as a recovering addict, it is important to realize what lies under the surface of these behaviors is almost always depression and an oppressive sense of self-expectation around perfectionism. This is especially true given that we live in a society that is constantly giving us the message we cannot be too young, too sexy, too rich, too successful or too buff.

In addition to depression and perfectionism, loneliness and a sense of depersonalization can also be powerful factors. Paradoxically, compulsive Internet gambling and shopping are the two addictions which are often propelled by these two factors. In a ritualized way, we can feel attended to and worthy from the potential of acting out in these areas.

Remember, the warning signs for all these online addictions are the same:

  • Spending too much time online at the expense of our other relationships and responsibilities.
  • Spending too much money to the detriment of our weekly, monthly budget.
  • Secret keeping.
  • Violating personal morals and ethics.
  • Making promises to ourselves to cut down or stop and finding ourselves unable to keep these promises.